Zero tolerance approach to school absence

Primary Pupils Hands

Nottingham City Council is warning parents: take your children out of school on holiday and we will take action against you.

That’s the tough message being given out as the local authority launches its latest ‘zero tolerance’ bid to drive up school attendance.

The city council is asking schools to report parents whose children are persistently absent – including those who take holidays in term time. Holidays will not be authorised.

The council is responsible for issuing penalty notices of £60 per parent per child for persistent absence. If this is not paid in 21 days, the fine doubles to £120 per parent, per child. If the fine is still unpaid, courts can impose tougher fines (with court costs) of up to £2,500 – and even have the power to issue prison sentences.

This tough stance on absence has so far helped to improve school attendance in Nottingham. Recent figures from the Department for Education show unauthorised absence has fallen from 1.8% in Autumn 2013 to 1.4% in Autumn 2014. Nottingham was also the most improved local authority in the country for school attendance in this period.

Cllr Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Schools in Nottingham, said: “Our message is a strong one, but we have to be clear: children who are registered with a school need to be in that school, it’s the law.

“We want all children to achieve their full potential. This means that every lesson counts! Children who have time off school find it difficult to catch up, and in secondary schools 17 school days missed can lead to one GCSE grade lost.

“For this reason we want all parents to understand that the City Council will take action when a child is persistently absent without agreement from the school. Through the courts, this could be a fine of up to £2,500 or even prison.”

On Monday 15 June, PCSOs and Education Welfare Officers will patrol community hotspots to ‘challenge’ young people who are not in school. A new online referral form has also been created to make it easier for schools to report parents.

So far this academic year (September 2014 to mid-May 15), 665 penalty notices have been issued to parents in Nottingham. This is up on 61 for the whole of the academic year 2013/14 and 308 for 2012/13. All money from fines is ploughed back into school attendance programmes and initiatives. No parents in Nottingham City have so far been jailed but 163 parents have been taken to court this year.

Cllr Webster added: “We know that most parents act responsibly to ensure their children are in school every weekday.

“We also recognise that some children are educated at home. However, the vast majority of Nottingham pupils receive a school education, and for these pupils there is a legal requirement for parents to ensure their child attends school.”

Parents can help their child’s attendance at school by:

  • Making sure their child gets to school on time
  • Not booking holidays during term time
  • Contacting the school the first day a child is off sick.

This is all part of a long-term action plan to improve school performance in Nottingham City through the Nottingham Schools Challenge Board. The City Council is also working with schools and academies to promote and recognise excellent attendance and good behaviour. Other activities planned for this academic year include the Lord Mayor’s Awards for Schools on 9 July.

More help and advice on attendance is available from www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/schoolattendance

 

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